Piero della. Francesca. 1420?-1492.
Giovanni Santi. 1435?-1494.
Piero, son of Benedetto of the Franceschi family, was born at Borgo San Sepolcro, where much of his life was spent. He was in Florence as assistant to Domenico Veneziano in 1439-1445. Under Nicholas V, he was employed in the Vatican, his paintings being among those replaced by Raphael’s work. His most important work, the story of the True Cross, is in the cathedral of Arezzo. The Dukes of Rimini and Urbino were among his patrons, and to the latter he dedicated a treatise on the application of mathematical principles to art, in 1482. His work on Perspective was studied by all artists. Melozzo da Forli and Signorelli were among his pupils.
Giovanni Santi, who lived in Urbino and there entertained Piero della Francesca, is best known as the author of a rhyming chronicle in which he characterizes the principal artists of the day. His own paintings have no great merit, but it is from him that the boy Raphael must have gained his first instruction and inspiration in painting.
NOTES ON THE PICTURES.
No. 223. Malatesta kneeling before St. Sigismund.
Chapel of the Relics, S. Francesco, Rimini.
S. Francesco is the celebrated Tempietto dei Malatesta, remodeled in the Renaissance style after plans by Alberti. (See Series G.)
This fresco, painted in 1451, is the earliest by Piero now in existence. The background has suffered from repainting. St. Sigismund, king of Burgundy, was Malatesta’s patron saint. He is represented in his royal rather than in his saintly character. The background, with its architectural elements, the arrangement of figures, the character study in the faces, are all of unusual originality and interest. Consider what the picture would lose were the great white dog not there.
No. 224. Baptism of Christ.
National Gallery, London.
Tempera on wood, 5 1/2 ft. high. Altarpiece painted for the priors of St. John the Baptist in Borgo San Sepolcro, possibly about 1453.
Compare with similar pieces by Giotto, Masaccio,Verocchio. The Tuscan landscape, the arrangement of the trees, the type of angel, are all characteristic of Piero. With all his literalness of presentation there is great dignity, even solemnity.
No. 225. The Resurrection.
Museum, San Sepolcro.
Fresco, painted about the same period as 224. Symonds regards it as ” the grandest, most poetic, and most awe-inspiring picture of the Resurrection.” The leafless trees on the one side are perhaps symbolic. The landscape suggests that of 224. The design is such as to concentrate attention on the figure of Christ, and especially on the eyes. Study the modeling, the composition. Analyze the power of the picture.
No. 228. Visit of the Queen of Sheba.
No. 232. Vision of Constantine.
S. Francesco, Arezzo.
Frescos painted between 1452 and 1466 by order of Luigi Bacci. 228 represents the recognition of the holy tree by the Queen of Sheba,a portion of the Golden Legend. The picture suffers from the heavy line made on the photograph by the iron bar used to strengthen the church.
Notice again the landscape and trees, the foreshortening of the horses, the interesting group of women in their provincial dress. 232 has suffered from dampness. It is a remarkable study in perspective, and especially in effects of light and shadow, perhaps the first in Italy.
No. M7. Annunciation. Vannucci Gallery, Perugia.
Tempera on wood. Painted by Piero for the monastery of S. Antonio in Perugia. Below are seen the pinnacles of an altarpiece in five parts of a much earlier period. The two have been thus joined since the time of Vasari, who describes this with much praise. The dignity of the Madonna and the angel, and the heavy draperies are characteristic of Piero’s art. Of especial interest is the architectural setting, with its long vista affording opportunity for the application of Piero’s study of perspective.
No. 229. Madonna in Adoration.
Long ascribed to Piero, now attributed to Baldovinetti by Berenson. See Studies in Italian Art, II, 23-39.
Compare with unquestioned works by Piero; with work by other artists to discover its affiliations.
No. 226. Portrait of Federigo da Montefeltro.
No. 227. Portrait of Battista Sforza.
Painted in distemper glazed with oil, probably before 1472. The two pictures are framed together. On the reverse are allegorical scenes, Triumphs, of which the duke and duchess of Urbino are the central characters.
Study the landscapes with their suggestion of aerial perspective; the faces, noticing the delicate gradations of tone by which the modeling is suggested.
No. 230. Portrait of a Lady.
No. 231. Portrait of a Lady.
Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin.
Each about 18 inches in height, painted in tempera with an enamel-like surface, having much the same beauty as a very low relief. This is especially true of 230. 231 has a cold blue background.
These, with several other female heads in profile in various European galleries, have long been ascribed to Piero della Francesca, although there is no documentary evidence. Recent attributions to Verocchio and to Piero del Pollajuolo meet with even greater difficulties.
The sharply outlined profile gives the effect of a silhouette. The refinement and piquancy of 230, and the delicacy of the painter’s art render charming provincial fashions that under other conditions would seem merely grotesque. These panels should be compared with the sculptured busts of young women, 470, 485.
No. 237. Madonna with Saints and Angels.
S. Domenico, Cagli.
Fresco, painted in 1492, the best work by Giovanni Santi. The angel at the left is traditionally the boy Raphael, then nine years old. The type of Madonna, characteristic of Giovanni, may easily be the precursor of Raphael’s own. Certain mannerisms in pose and position of the feet also occur in early work of the son. Still more suggestive is the gentle and tranquil spirit of the scene.